Cleaning A Drum Carder

Well, I had to give Cardzilla a good cleaning after a tweed blend I just finished up, so I figured I’d document the process for all to see.

You can really tell the poor guy needs a cleaning. Look at all this trash on the main drum!

And the lickerin drum — stuff piles up there after a huge batch. This is, as it was explained to me when I got my first Strauch, “where everything piles up that you didn’t want in your batt anyway, if you’re doing it right.”

And grit and fiber get everywhere — like down in the bearings and around the axles and everything, if you aren’t careful.

This can be very annoying.

It could also be a huge problem if you let it pile up, and cause mechanical issues. Best case, you end up saying “Wow, did this thing come with felt washers? I don’t remember that!” and worst case, well, you get problems. Ideally, I notice if this is happening and clear it immediately. Sometimes I don’t, though. These things happen. We’ll take care of it.

First things first. I grab one of my beater Ashford student hand cards…

…and, with the carder moving forward, gently clean off the licker-in. I start here because the main drum is going to pick stuff up off the licker-in as I loosen it, and if I had done the main drum first and gotten it all clean, I’d just have to start over.

Once I have the licker-in well cleaned, I move on to the main drum. I use the Ashford hand card here because, I admit it, it’s larger, and I’m lazy.

With the hand card resting lightly there, I operate the carder in reverse. Most of the excess fluff just comes right off.

Then I have a hand card full of trash fiber.

I repeat this step as needed, ending up with a pile like this.

Ted asked recently about the “trash yarn” that I spindle spun from drum carder trash — how do I prep it for spinning? Well, here it is! I’ll tell you more about that in an upcoming post. But this is what I do for prep.

With the big stuff off, then I have at those bearings and axles with tweezers.

And ugh, this is the scary part. Did you guys notice what it says on that yellow sticker that’s been in the background a few times? It’s not kidding; this is how I generally wound myself — grabbing bits of fluff and accidentally jabbing a finger into the licker-in.

Once I’ve picked the axles clean, going forward and back to unwrap fibers, I move on to the tool that actually comes with a Strauch carder for cleaning the main drum: a flick carder. The teeth are longer, and they dig things out better than the Ashford hand card does, but it’s also a smaller tool so I use it in a second pass when needed.

Lots and lots of stuff comes off this way, but not the volume that the first pass got.

So now, we’re looking good, right?


You can’t necessarily see it easily, but after I take that fella (the technical term is a “foosher,” because you use it to foosh things with canned air)…

Holy cow, there really was more stuff there, kinda hiding.

And if we didn’t get those out, those would be neps in our next batt. Yuck.

Okay, so now we’re done, right? Right? I mean, look at the axles here.

Sorry guys. Not done.

What? Aw, c’mon! What is that?

It’s where your nagging mom says, “Did you pick up the rug and sweep under it, or just push the dirt around it?”

Sigh. Okay, okay.

And then we’re still not done. Look at the carder in that photo, and ignore the pile of debris! More neppy trash.

This brush, too, is a Strauch tool that comes with. You use it after all the other things.

Okay, now we’re looking good.

Yeah, looks pretty decent.

However, the absolute and undeniable truth of the matter is that there’s *still* going to be stuff on here sometimes! So I usually run through a light batt of fine white merino wool, lightly misted with water. That picks up any dust and particles I might have missed. Also check the brush attachment if you have one, and make sure you don’t have lingering junk there either.

I cannot stress enough that the big yellow sticker means business, especially if you are cleaning a motorized carder. Don’t screw up. Even if you are as careful as I am, believe me, you can hurt yourself. And when I do, usually it’s by jabbing the pad of my index finger just so, getting a wound that takes a while to close nicely, and irritating the bejesus out of me when I want to settle down and spin that evening. Or knit, crochet, weave, write with a pencil, or do almost anything… sigh!

In general, you want to clean like this either any time that your carder needs it, or if you’re moving from one type of fiber to another, or changing colours. The more often you do it, the faster it will go. The more attentive you are while carding, the less time you have to spend on the annoying parts like tweezing fiber out of crevices.

Improper use and inadequate maintenance are the things that kill drum carders. With decent cleaning and maintenance alone, and if you make sure you follow your carder’s instructions, the carder itself can last basically forever. Cardzilla is no spring chicken, and the only thing he’s ever needed other than cleaning is a new motor — the aftermarket part.

Your specific carder may call for slightly different maintenance and cleaning practices than mine does; always do what the guy who made your carder tells you to do, instead of what some random chick on the Internet says.

24 thoughts on “Cleaning A Drum Carder

  1. Nice posting!

    I’ve found that an old pair of hemostats works great in place of the tweezers.

    Thanks for the tip about the nail brush – I’m definitely going to try that.

    Drum carder bites are a pain – I have sooo been there. Usually I only need one such ‘reminder’ every few months. But there was the time when I managed to card a chunk of my thumb pad off on the (then new) PG.

    I covet a wider, motorized carder 😉

    -the redhead-

  2. Don’t have one, not sure that I want one. I enjoy your stuff so much!!!! However, for some odd reason I think I would find it enjoyable cleaning it. Kinda like when your little ones have stuff in places stuff isn’t supposed to be and you clean it with your pinky nail? Plus, I love mechanical things.

  3. I do believe you have the only carder in known existence with an Edlebrock sticker! My guys (hubby & Mr. “I’m 18, I know it all already”) are gearheads, I can pick that one out of a lineup! 😉

  4. Mmm, my favorite is a barb under the thumbnail. It even comes with a yelping and a dance.
    Thanks for the informative post.
    Now, my question of the day is: how do you know when the carder is carding correctly? (Like, the tension or distance between the drums?)

  5. Thanks for the pictures, Abby! I’m glad to know that I’m doing things mostly right. Also glad to know that I’m not the only person on the earth who gets fiber on the licker in drum. Someone once told me if there was fiber there I was doing it wrong. Any idea where that thought comes from?

  6. You are hardly a random chick on the internet. But again, other drum carders are different. This is a good way to clean Fricke/Strauch carders that is sure and yes that little yellow sticker is serious business. If you have one of these carders take a good look at the tines of the licker in, they mean business.

  7. great post and photos! (as usual). Being extremely lazy myself, I usually vacuum my drums off, works very well, saves time and my knuckles!

  8. Thanks for the pics and instruction! It has greatly increased my respect for those, like you, who do this. It also has convinced me that I will not be having a drum carder in the future. I will continue to purchase.

    Knowing that I am slightly errant with my fingers, I would pre band aid myself in such a way that I could still maintain dexterity.

  9. Hey, Abby, do you have a Fuller Brush Man? Go look at their website for the hairbrush cleaner tool. Somebody brought one to guild, and I was lucky enough to score one secondhand. It works like a charm on my Strauch, both drum and licker-in.

    Much less carder bites now! (grin)

  10. I vaccuum alot of that stuff out. Out of the bearings and off the drum. Gotta love a shop vac, they suck everything off of there with minimal effort. But I like the use of hand cards. I might have to employ that between larger cleanings.

  11. Thank you, thank you, thank you. As I am sweep it up under the rug type of cleaner, it’s really helpful to have it all laid out like that. I have a fairly new strauch. I love it to death. Your post came timely, so maybe I will actually take care of this beautiful piece of equipment.
    How much fiber can you actually cram onto yours?

  12. Wow, I just got my Strauch carder today, so thanks so much for such a great tutorial on cleaning it! And I wanted to ask you, do you pull your batts off the carder as roving, or just leave them in batt form? Yours always look so nice!!!

  13. Thank you for this – its nice to know I’ve about got it right! The good photos help too, particularly with adjusting the drums. My carder came to me pre-loved, as I’m sure a lot of carders do, so its really nice to see close-ups of what it should look like when properly set up and cleaned.

  14. OMG. I’ve lurked your site many a time, you are such an dear for helping the rest of us with your tutorials and I just can’t say thank you enough!

  15. Great photos. I bought the Petite a month ago and now realize she is not enough. I need Cardzilla! I am drooling over your dirty drumcarder!

  16. Thank you for the instructions above, pity one cannot read your replies to the comments below that

    I have also just got myself a drum carder but somehow even if I put new tops through it I get Neps or Pirls, what am I doing wrong?

  17. Thank you. I was just trying out my first drum carder after reading several “how to” for carding. I did that knowing I’m never perfect, certainly not the first time, but I was shocked at all the stuff the licker picked up. As they say, “Candy is dandy but the Licker is quicker.” Now I know I have the tools on hand to deal with it when I’m done with this fiber. And I know where to look and what to look for.

    If you lived nearby, I’d make you a cuppa tea.

  18. Thank you for that post! I had no clue how to clean the dern thing and it is now sort of sparkling! Now I just have to learn how to use it properly…

  19. Hi there,
    thank you for this valuable information. Is anyone else having problems seeing the pictures? I’ve tried viewing this post in firefox and internet explorer but they do not appear.
    thanks so much,

  20. I like the instructions, but for some reason I can’t see any of the pictures. You did a great job of describing things though.


  21. Unfortunately, the pictures were lost several years ago. They date to a prior hosting solution for the site, and their loss prompted me to change hosting solutions so there’s less risk of that happening in the future. In the event that I’ve suddenly got some free time, I’ll probably completely redo the entire page.

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